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SIKHS RELATIONS WITH MUGHAL EMPERORS

SIKHS` RELATIONS WITH MUGHAL EMPERORS. The Janam sakhis, traditional, accounts of the life of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), describe a meeting between him and Babar (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal dynasty, who was impressed by the former`s spiritual manner. Four of the Guru`s sabdas included in the Guru Granth Sahib allude to the havoc and misery Babar`s invasion brought in its train. According to Sikh tradition, Emperor Humayun (d. 1556), while fleeing to Iran in 1540, waited upon Guru Angad (1506-52) at Khadur to seek his blessing. Akbar (1542-1605), liberal in his religious policy, treated.

Guru Amar Das (1479-1574), Guru Ram Das (1534-81) and Guru Arjan (1563-1606) with reverence. His son and successor, Jahangir (1569-1627), was not as openhearted. He had Guru Arjan executed and Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) imprisoned for a time, though later he adopted a friendly attitude towards the latter. Guru Hargobind gave a martial turn to the career of the Sikh community, and there occurred in his lifetime armed encounters with the imperial troops. Emperor Shah Jahan`s eldest son, Dara Shukoh, was known to be an admirer of Guru Har Rai. Dara lost to Aurangzib in the battle of succession.

Aurangzib, emperor from 1658 to 1707, summoned Guru Har Rai to Delhi probably to explain his alleged support to Dara. The Guru did not go himself but sent his son, Ram Rai, who won the Emperor`s favour by deliberately misreading a verse by Guru Nanak to please the king for which he was anathematized by his father. Guru Har Rai`s successor, Guru Har Krishan (1656-64), was also summoned by the Emperor to Delhi where he died of smallpox. Guru Tegh Bahadur (162175), Nanak IX, was executed in Delhi under Aurangzib`s orders. Guru Go bind Singh (1666-1708) was forced to remain in a constant state of warfare owing to the intolerance of the Emperor.

He addressed a strong letter of protest and admonition in Persian verse to Aurangzib who invited him for personal parleys. But the Emperor died before the two could meet. The next Emperor, Bahadur Shah I, displayed friendly respect towards the Guru and relations between the Sikhs and the State would have taken a positive turn but for the sudden death of Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh shortly before his death vested the guruship in the Granth or the Holy Book and the Panth or the community as a whole, ending the line of living Gurus. On the other hand, the Mughal empire, following the death of Aurangzib, started disintegrating.

There were rebellions everywhere, and outlying provinces had become virtually independent. Emperors at Delhi came and went in quick succession, the throne changing hands eight times between 1707 and 1720. Sikhs rose in rebellion under the leadership of Banda Singh Bahadur ,(1670-1716), and Emperor Bahadur Shah issued, on 10 December 1710, a general warrant for the faujdars to "kill the worshippers of Nanak [i.e. Sikhs] wherever found." Persecution of the cruellest kind was let loose upon the Sikhs, who yet rose again and again with redoubled strength until in the late 1760`s they became sovereign masters of the country between the Indus and the Yamuna.

They took full advantage of the disorder caused by foreign invaders, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali. Shah `Alam II (ace. 1759, d. 1806) was emperor only in name. Following the murder of his father, `Alamgir II, on 29 November 1759, he had fled from Delhi, crowned himself in the camp, and lived at Allahabad up to 1771, returning to Delhi thereafter as a protege of Mahadji Scindia, the Maratha chief of Gwalior. The Sikhs had established themselves in the Sirhind province up to Karnal and Panipat beyond which lay the crown lands of the Emperor on both sides of the Yamuna.

These territories became a perpetual raiding ground of the Sikhs. Even the imperial capital was not beyond their reach. In January 1774, they sacked Shahdara and in July 1775 they raided Pahargahj and Jaisinghpura. Their depredations extended beyond Delhi as far as `Aligarh and Farrukhabad. The Sikhs entered the Red Fort on 11 March 1783, the Emperor and his courtiers hiding themselves in their private appartments. At the Emperor`s request, Begam Samru persuaded the Sikhs to retire from Delhi and spare the crown lands. It was agreed that only Sardar Baghel Singh of the Karorsinghia misi with 4,000 men would remain in the capital, with Sabzi Mandi as his headquarters.

He was allowed to build seven gurdwaras at places sacred to the Sikhs. To meet the expenses of his troops and of the construction of gurdwaras, he was permitted to charge six annas in a rupee (37.5%) of the income from octroi duties in the capital. In 1787, the Sikhs aided Ghulam Qadir Ruhila to capture Delhi. Mahadji Scindia expelled the Ruhila chief from Delhi and reasserted his authority over the Emperor in October 1788. He tried without much success to placate the Sikhs, who had resumed their attacks on the crown lands, which came to an end only after the Maratha`s defeat at the hands of the British and the establishment of British supremacy at Delhi in 1803.

References :

1. Bhangu, Ratan Singh, Prachih Panth Prakash. Amritsar, 1914
2. Gian Singh, Giani, Twankh Guru Khalsa. [Reprint]. Patiala, 1970
3. Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. Bombay, 1962
4. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikh Gurus. Delhi, 1978
5. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
6. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980
7. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People (1469-1978). Delhi, 1979

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.

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